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First Lecture in Ashoka History Spring 2021 Webinar series : Symbol and Image Worship in Jainism: Stūpas, Images and Āyāgapaṭas of Mathura’.

January 27 @ 1:40 pm - 2:45 pm

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This paper discusses Jainism at Mathura, based on epigraphic evidence from the 2ndcentury BCE to the 11thcentury CE. The inscriptions reveal several kinds of gifts donated in this period namely temples, āyāgapaṭas, śilāpaṭas, and Jina images. Several important but neglected themes would be discussed during the course of this paper. Evidence from Mathura reveals the active worship of stūpas by the Jainas. This finding needs special emphasis, as stūpas are considered synonymous with Buddhism; but Jainas worshipped the stūpas just as the Buddhists did. In addition, historical scholarship has always focused on the origin of the Buddha image. However, the Jina image deserves scholarly attention as it originated fairly early in Jainism. It is noticeable on the Mathura āyāgapaṭas from as early as the first century BCE/CE. In fact, this paper establishes how one does not need to locate any Buddhist parallels for both stūpa and image worship in Jainism.The āyāgapaṭas – an integral part of Mathura art and extremely important for the understanding of Jaina art and religious practice – have been relatively neglected. The āyāgapaṭas are significant as they reflect the simultaneous existence of symbol and image worship in Jainism. This paper also considers the explorations and excavations conducted at Kankali Tila and discusses the questions raised about the supposed discoveries at this site by A. Führer. Jaina inscriptions also reveal immense details about the monastic order and indicate the influential role it played in inducing the laity to donate gifts. An attempt is also made to answer the long-pending question of whether the Jainas at Mathura were Śvetāmbaras or Digambaras. Finally, the paper concludes by analysing the continued presence of the Jainas in the Mathura landscape for several centuries.

Kanika Kishore Saxena specializes in ancient Indian history and her research interests include religion, art, and inscriptions. She completed her BA and MA (first position in the University of Delhi) from Lady Shri Ram College (LSR), University of Delhi, and was awarded the President’s Gold Medal for excellence in academics, conduct, character, and co-curricular and social services. She obtained her PhD from the same university, having worked under the supervision of Prof. Upinder Singh, and received a Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) by Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). She has worked as Research Associate at Aga Khan Foundation, and as assistant professor of history in LSR, Miranda House and Shivaji College, University of Delhi. She has presented several research papers in national and international seminars. Her research articles, such as “The Āyāgapaṭas of Mathura” and “Symbol and Image Worship in Jainism: The Āyāgapaṭas of Mathura”, have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Art of the Orient and the Indian Historical Review respectively. Her monograph titled Before Kṛṣṇa: Religious Diversity in Ancient Mathura is scheduled for publication in early 2021 by Oxford University Press.

She has also been working passionately for the last 20 years for the NGO ‘Hriday-Shan’ (which works towards tobacco-related, alcohol-related, and other lifestyle disorders associated with school and college children) and Public Health Foundation of India and has represented India in several national and international conferences by World Health Organization and the American Public Association.



January 27
1:40 pm - 2:45 pm


Department of History